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National Park Service Ranger Stations Re-Imagined

Ben Malaier

This year, the Auburn-based third-year Architecture studio tackled the challenge of designing two types of Ranger Stations for the National Park Service: a universally applicable prototype and one catered to a very specific site at the most visited site within the purview of the NPS, the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Over 280 million people visited NPS sites in 2014, and the National Mall in Washington, D.C. received 25 million visitors, more than the combined total of visitors to Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon.

View the Gallery of student work: Ranger Stations Re-Imagined

The concept of a 21st century prototype for the NPS Ranger Stations was a facet of the 2012 Ideas Competition for the National Mall, but most of the competition's entrants focused on other, large-scale planning aspects of the competition so the NPS's outdated, impermanent, and nostalgic "cabins" have not yet been addressed.

President Wilson established the NPS in 1916 with the mission of preserving sites of natural and cultural significance around the nation in order to provide “enjoyment, education, and inspiration.” With a variety of sites, ranging from historical sites and parks to national monuments, battlefields, preserves, and parkways, NPS Rangers serve as resources for visitors and stewards of both the built and natural environment. There are tens of thousands Ranger Stations scattered across the nation, in urban and rural sites, but few of these stations are ecologically responsible, efficient, or intriguing structures that fully meet the requirements of disparate sites or fulfill the needs of the Rangers in terms of operational efficiency or security.

In order to better understand the program of the 21st century Ranger Station, students visited NPS sites in Tuskegee, met with the Rangers of the Tuskegee National Forest, and, despite a significant snowfall, students extensively explored Washington, D.C. March 4-7. There, they visited several sites on and around the National Mall such as key monuments, the construction site of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture by David Adjaye, the Library of Congress, Fosters + Partners’ courtyard project at the National Portrait Gallery, and Mies van der Rohe’s public library. Students also had the opportunity to take several special behind-the-scenes tours: they explored the LEED Platinum Embassy of Finland, walked the upper gallery of the National Building Museum, and spent a day with Kevin Kampschroer, GSA’s Director of the Office of Federal High Performance Green Buildings, touring the systems and spaces of the Mills Building, an adaptive reuse project that serves as the GSA’s Headquarters. Students also had the opportunity to tour the U.S. Capitol Building with the current Architect of the Capitol, Stephen T. Ayers, FAIA, LEED AP.